I feel like a failure today.
It’s irrational, I know, but it still doesn’t dull the emotional fallout from Tuesday’s presidential election and Donald Trump’s shocking victory.
There’s nothing I could have done to influence the outcome of what happened, however, my professional industry — the ‘journalism and news’ industry — suffered a massive credibility blow.
Allow me to get up on my soap box.
The primary role of journalists is to hold the government to account as the fourth estate. It’s a well established principle that freedom of the press is a fundamental aspect to democracy.
However, along with that principle comes a responsibility to report news accurately, fairly and without bias.
Quite simply, journalism, especially good journalism, should be as simple as observing and reporting what happened and reaction to what happened.
What happened at city council?
The mayor said this and that.
Who said what at the provincial election debate?
Here’s the audio tape of what each candidate said.
When it comes to bias, there’s always a tricky balance to strike.
Journalists are supposed to hold governments and elected officials to account and they are supposed to ask the hard questions. That’s a part of the job description and the principle of freedom of the press that allows journalists to criticize politicians and governments for their policy decisions, good or bad.
However, there’s always the narrative from voters that if the media criticizes a Conservative government, then it obviously has a liberal bias. If the media goes after a Liberal government, there’s a conservative bias.
Bias in the editorial section of a newspaper is acceptable — this is space dedicated for opinion where a bias is encouraged.
However, it is becoming increasingly clear how bias is affecting media companies and organizations in their news reporting.
The most glaring example from the United States is Fox News, which is now less a news organization and more of a cheerleader for the right-wing political spectrum. Meanwhile, MSNBC, based out of New York, does much of the same thing for the left side of American politics.
The point, now that I’ve buried the lede, is that Americans were either stunningly ill-informed about Trump’s candidacy, or they simply didn’t care about his well-documented litany of belligerent and insensitive statements about women and minorities.
Journalists (again, the good ones) pride themselves on being able to inform their audience and report the news.
And that’s where the media dropped the ball this time.
There was such a hysteria whipped up about Hillary Clinton’s email server and Donald Trump’s statements about grabbing…kitty cats…that the national conversation focused on those topics instead of campaign promises and policy.
Details really do matter.
What’s Trump’s tax plan? What’s Clinton’s Middle East strategy? What’s the plan for healing the divide between black communities and law enforcement? How to engage with a resurgent Russia?
Instead of an important policy discussion that really needed to occur, the election devolved into a race-to-the-bottom embarrassment in front of a global audience.
In addition to the failure of traditional media, there has been a notable increase of alternative media, or advocacy media, where organizations such as Breibart News publish stories with an obvious bias in support of a particular candidate or political ideological worldview.
Bias is real and it is out there, especially in the media industry, either intentional or not. The only thing that journalists (again, the good ones) can ask for is that their audience has the ability to think critically.
Clinton had her sins and scandals too, no doubt, but she has a resume that includes serving as a New York Senator and Secretary of State, while Trump fired people on a reality show for 14 years.
For Trump supporters, the president-elect is a rage against the status quo of the political system. which has been bogged down by partisanship and fostered a culture where voters thing that the politicians are only in it for themselves and society’s elites.
Yet, even with his portrayal as an outsider, he is still a part of the Republican fold, and sweeps the trinity of a Republican-held White House, Congress (House of Representatives and the Senate) and a soon-to-be Supreme Court, as Republicans have the mandate to chose the next Justice, which will break the four-on-four deadlock.
As far as what to expect?
Obamacare is gone. The Republican party won’t replace it with something to help low-income Americans get health care insurance, because they don’t have a plan.
Other executive action that Obama took on immigration and climate change will likely be repealed.
In essence, the Republican Party has carte blanche to do whatever it wants.
And that is truly frightening.